September is National Preparedness Month. Yesterday, President Obama marked the start of this national observance by meeting with cabinet secretaries and senior federal officials responsible for preparing the nation for a resurgence of influenza A (H1N1 2009). The White House’s approach to pandemic influenza reflects a striking and welcome shift in policy that bodes well for federal leadership of efforts to improve the nation’s resilience.
In his 2007 book, The Edge of Disaster: Rebuilding a Resilient Nation, Stephen Flynn, paints a vivid picture of the costs and consequence of investing in national defense at the expense of national security. He argues convincingly that staggering investments in maintaining America’s military may actually make us less safe.
The Obama Administration seems to have taken many of Flynn’s observations about the need to reinvest in the nation’s physical and social infrastructure to heart. This administration has already taken several noteworthy and concrete steps to build a more resilient nation by
- Integrating the White House staffs responsible for national security and homeland security,
- Putting infrastructure investment at the top of the national agenda in the economic stimulus package,
- Opening a national dialogue on seeking public input to the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review,
- Investing in energy independence by promoting energy efficiency and green technologies to reduce carbon emmissions and slow climate change,
- Using social media actively and agressively to share information freely and openly about H1N1 preparedness and response, and
- Promoting health insurance reform and electronic medical records as means of reducing health care costs and promoting preventive public health.
These initiatives are a great start, but much more is needed. And the rhetoric coming from Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano and the new FEMA administrator Craig Fugate encouraging signs that more is coming. They seem to recognize that partnerships with state and local officials and an engaged and civic-minded public play vital roles in securing our nation against threats both foreign and domestic, natural and man-made.
Every American can support their efforts to safeguard our liberty while promoting our security by taking simple steps to prepare for emergencies. These steps don’t cost much, and many of them improve our quality of life even if we somehow manage to avoid direct experience of disaster. Great information to help us get started is available online at http://www.ready.gov.